Democrats and Republicans clash over voting rights and election security

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Thousands of people will walk the National Mall in Washington, DC on August 28 to mark the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with a demand for voting rights legislation.

In the wake of the hotly contested 2020 presidential election results, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a battle to reshape federal and state voting rights laws to better position themselves for future elections.

Lawmakers in Republican states across the country, baselessly claiming that former President Donald Trump was swindled for a second term, rushed to enact very restrictive state laws to prevent ballot fraud. Democrats insist that many of these measures are unwarranted measures that could deprive millions of Americans of the right to vote and have sought to block them through congressional action.

Democrats responded by promoting federal-level bills that would roll back many Republican state-level bills. But despite the Biden administration‘s promises to fight for the bills – which are stuck in the equally divided US Senate – they are unlikely to move forward.

The fight for voting rights is only the latest casualty of the partisan political divide in the country. In June, Senate Republicans blocked debate on the “For the People Act” passed by the US House, which would be the biggest overhaul of the US electoral system in a generation. The bill, HR 1, would, among other things, end the gerrymandering of congressional districts, revise campaign contribution laws and protect voting rights.

Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters after the bill was blocked: “This is about the right of the American people to vote unhindered, it is about their access to the right to vote in a meaningful way, because no one wonder if all Americans have the right to vote. . The problem here is their actual access to the voting process. “

But many analysts say the federal bill will remain stuck unless Democrats make a serious decision to end the filibuster rule in the Senate, which requires a three-fifths majority to move most of the government forward. laws.

In a 50-50 split, with Vice President Harris casting the deciding vote, Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to put their bill to a vote.

The Liberal Democrats and others have urged Senate Democratic leadership to eliminate the filibuster rule in order to embrace electoral reform and other elements of the Democratic agenda. But so far President Biden and two Democratic senators have opposed this approach.

Changes to state-level voting laws have accelerated. Seventeen states have passed 28 laws with new restrictions on voting this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, since Trump claimed the 2020 election was “rigged” against him.

In July, more than 50 Texas House Democrats risked arrest while fleeing the state to prevent the Republican-controlled legislature from passing a voting bill they said restricted the rights of citizens. minorities. They fled to Washington, DC, calling on Congress to step up efforts to pass national voting rights legislation.

Rebekah Caruthers, vice president of the Fair Elections Center, said federal legislation would help remedy the situation in Texas and other states.

“The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will actually look for ways to modernize the way we run our elections, and then to ensure that marginalized groups who have been historically discriminated against can vote,” a- she declared. .

The 2020 presidential election saw a record turnout. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of eligible voters voted, the highest share since the 1900 election. Congressional Democrats and some analysts argue that’s the reason for the acceleration in states controlled by Republicans who pass voting restrictions.

“Instead of looking for ways to increase the right to vote and increase civic participation in this country, we are seeing a political party trying to reduce the number of people who showed up to vote in 2020. Simply put, we see the Republican Party don’t want the same 2020 voters running in 2022, ”Caruthers said.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have criticized Democrats’ legislation, arguing that there is broad support for common sense laws that protect the integrity of elections.

“Americans want it easy to vote and harder to cheat,” McConnell told the Senate in July. Quoting a provision in the Texas bill, he added, “Voter ID, for example, is popular with the majority of blacks, whites and Hispanic Americans.

FILE – A man verifies the identity of a voter before giving them a ballot at an early polling place in Fairfax, Va. On September 18, 2020.

Conservative analysts say Democratic legislation would lead to a dangerous federal excess in election monitoring.

“States are each responsible for the conduct of their elections. This Bill – HR 1, which Democrats urge Congress to pass, would lead to a federal takeover of election administration across the country, ”said Hans von Spakovsky, director of the Reform Initiative. electoral law at the Heritage Foundation.

“It has many other changes that essentially eliminate the kind of basic safety and security protocols and measures that states have put in place to try to protect the integrity and security of the electoral process,” he said. he declares.

In July, the United States Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Brnovich v Democratic National Committee which limited section two of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section two prohibits discriminatory voting practices or procedures based on race, color or membership of a minority language group.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the Supreme Court ruling preserved state-level efforts to protect the integrity of elections.

“These measures are designed to preserve order, secure the elections and give confidence in the results,” he said.

But Caruthers noted: “We see that section two has been used in the past to ensure that those who have suffered voter suppression can take their cases to court and ensure that they are actually able to do so. ” access the ballot boxes. But what we are seeing is that there is a movement across the country, with the Supreme Court as well as with the majority of state lawmakers, to make it harder for these marginalized groups to vote. “

Opinion polls show Americans support elements of both sides’ arguments. A Monmouth University poll in June 2021 showed 71% of people supported early voting, while 80% supported showing ID to vote. Respondents were also divided on the ease of access to postal voting.

But Democrats argue that the For the People Act represents an even broader overhaul of the U.S. election and government that will lead to the passage of voting rights legislation.

At a recent event with the monitoring organization Common Cause, Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, said, “If you’re just surveying people across the country, Republicans, Independents and Democrats, they all want to tackle gerrymandering. They all want to grab the black money that allows billionaires and corporations to buy elections. They all want to protect the ballot boxes, the beating heart of our republic. “

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